July 22, 2005 Extra Credit
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July 22, 2005

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"Sharpening Up Schools Can Especially Help Minority Children"

The following are excerpts from a recent Economist editorial highlighting the extraordinary gains reported on the recently released Nation’s Report Card.

"…The National Assessment of Educational Progress has been periodically testing a representative sample of 9-, 13- and 17-year-olds since the early 1970s. This year's report contained two striking results. The first is that America's nine-year-olds posted their best scores in reading and math since the tests were introduced (in 1971 in reading and 1973 in math). The second is that the gap between white students and minorities is narrowing. The nine-year-olds who made the biggest gains of all were blacks, traditionally the most educationally deprived group in American society…"

"Mr Bush's [No Child Left Behind] Act may be very new. But the ideas that lie behind it—focusing on basic subjects such as math and reading and using regular testing to hold schools accountable—have been widely tried at the state level since at least the mid-1990s. Mr Bush deserves credit for recognising winning ideas thrown up by America's "laboratories of democracy" and then applying them at the federal level. Thirteen- and 17-year-olds may not have shown as much improvement as nine-year-olds. But that is precisely because reformers have focused their energies on the earlier grades…"

"The Act not only requires states to measure the general progress of their children. It also requires them to disaggregate their data to reveal the performance of specific groups such as Latino children or poor children. The aim is to prevent states from boosting the overall performance of their children while leaving vulnerable groups behind…"

"The poor quality of America's schools is arguably the biggest threat to America's global competitiveness, a threat that will only grow as the best brains from India and China compete in an ever-wider array of jobs. And the growing gap between the educational performance of the rich and the poor, and between the majority and minorities, is arguably the biggest threat to America's traditional conception of itself as a meritocracy. The test results are thus doubly good news. They suggest that America may be able to improve its traditionally dismal educational performance. And they suggest that sharpening up schools can especially help minority children."

The complete text of this editorial is available online.


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NCLB Extra Credit is a regular look at the No Child Left Behind Act, President Bush's landmark education reform initiative passed with bipartisan support in Congress.

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Last Modified: 07/25/2005